Irony in Emma - A Literary Essay Example

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Vanderbilt University
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From the introduction of the novel Emma by Jane Austen, the irony is used extensively. She uses irony to introduce her main character Emma and carries on to illustrate the irony in the way Emma lives her life. Additionally, Jane shows irony all over the book, be it dramatic irony, situational or verbal irony. The main use of irony is the expression of how marriages come about and what factors contribute, unknowingly, to the establishment of long-term relationships that mostly lead to marriage. In fact, the irony is reflected in nearly every characters deeds and communications. In this paper, the significant use of situational and dramatic irony in Emma will be assessed. The ultimate goal of the paper will be to show how irony is used, why it is used, and what purpose it serves in delivering the overall theme brought out by Jane Austen.

Situational irony is depicted throughout Emmas life in the book. The author introduces us to this perfect lady whose description a handsome, clever, rich and all-sufficient lady who controls her life and knows just what she wants (Austen 5). However, in the course of the story, we come to notice that Emma is not in control of her life and she barely knows what she wants. She believes herself to be an excellent matchmaker with well-defined observational skills (Austen 9). In reality, though, she does not know what it is she wants and barely realizes when she is in love. Three major instances illustrate this: first is when she tries to link Mr. Martin and Harriet Smith; second is when she tries to match Mr. Elton with Harriet, and third when she attempts to match Harriet and Mr. Knightley.

In the case of Mr. Martin, Emma tries to match Harriet with him so that they can marry. She goes ahead to make Harriet believe that Mr. Martin is in love with her (Austen 58). However, in a twisted turn of events, Emma herself is made to believe that Harriet is too highborn to be meant for Mr. Martin, a mere farmer (p. 48). In the case with Mr. Elton, Emma is so sure that the two, Elton and Harriet match as a couple and takes an initiative of lying to Harriet about how much Mr. Elton loves her (Harriet). Surprisingly, the event turns out that Mr. Elton is in love with Emma herself and even goes ahead to propose to her (Austen 117).

Lastly, we have the situation with Mr. Knightley who Emma links with Harriet. The goal was to match Harriet with Knightley. It so turns out that Emma herself does fall for Mr. Knightley. The situation gets to a point where Harriet and Knightley almost marry at which moment Emma wishes they do not match (Austen 230). In other words, Emma sets out to find a match for her friend but ends up finding a match for herself. She thinks that she understands her friends needs, but the truth is that she barely understands what she needs. Whats even more ironic is that the book ends with Emma marrying the so-called Mr. Knightley.

In a dramatic event of irony, Emma, Jane Fairfax, and Harriet are entangled in a rather interesting scenario involving men. In this ironic twist, Emma has the idea that Jane intends to steal Mrs. Dixons husband. What she (Emma) does not know is that Jane is already secretly engaged to Mr. Churchill. Indeed, Emma is the man snatcher since she flatters with Mr. Churchill not knowing about his engagement with Jane (Austen 235). To escalate the ironical scenario, Harriet falls in love with Mr. Knightley which means that she is a step closer to snatching away Emmas love and the would-be husband (even if it is not official). In other words, the three women are entangled in a web of pursuing the same men though unconsciously. To Emma, Harriet and Jane are husbands (or men) snatchers while to Jane, Emma is the man snatcher.

Focusing on these ironical occurrences in the novel, it is evident that the author, Jane Austen, utilizes the technique of irony in a major way. The main purposes of irony are to engage the audience in an interesting suspense and surprise of the turnout of events. For instance, the dramatic irony makes the readers feel that they are part of the story where they have knowledge of what is happening in the story yet the characters do not know. Situational irony, on the other hand, enables the readers are taken on a mental ride where they perceive something in a given way. In the end, their thinking is completely negated as they find out what they had perceived is completely false and the opposite is the actual situation.

Conclusively, the book Emma uses irony to spice things up and give what the readers do not expect. Irony creates surprise and suspense in the book which makes it even more captivating and interesting. These purposes of irony are why Austen uses the technique. In the real world, the ironic portrayal of the book shows how people engage in an array of fantasies and false hopes as they pursue relationships. It shows how people spend a good proportion of their life trying to the right person. Sometimes, those who we think are meant for others are may be meant for us and vice versa. That is what irony brings out as a technique in Emma.

Work cited

Austen, Jane. Emma. New York: Dutton, 1906. Print.

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